Thirty-three LGBTQ students are suing the Department of Education in a class-action lawsuit filed March 29, claiming that the exemption religious schools have from federal nondiscrimination requirements is unconstitutional. The students—some currently enrolled, some graduated—allege that they faced discrimination at 25 federally funded Christian colleges and universities in 18 states.
According to The Washington Post, the timing of the lawsuit isn’t a coincidence. The Equality Act, a sweeping measure that would add gender identity and sexuality to the groups protected under the Civil Rights Act, is now being considered in the U.S. Senate. If passed, conscience exemptions for religious groups and individuals would be significantly weakened.
“This has been something that has been building for a long time, but make no mistake, this is a direct threat at the very existence of Christian education,” Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said.
The lawsuit claims there are more than 100,000 LGBTQ students attending religious institutions in the U.S., yet Mohler points out that those students had the choice of whether or not to attend those schools.
“Many of the students act as if they had no idea that the institution to which they were applying actually had religious convictions concerning sexual behavior, gender identity,” he said. “… But many of them actually acknowledged that they knew, but they enrolled anyway. You see the rejection of those teachings and you see the explicit claim that these schools ought not to be able to operate on the basis of their religious convictions.
“Who do they think they are anyway? Religious schools?” Mohler asked sarcastically. “Well, actually they are religious schools. That’s the whole point. And nobody was compelled by any kind of government force to apply to or to accept admission in any of these schools.”
Some of the schools named in the suit are Union University, Liberty University, Baylor University, Bob Jones University, Cedarville University, Oklahoma Baptist University and Moody Bible Institute.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education told NBC News that the Biden administration is “fully committed to equal education access for all students.”
The spokesperson added that President Joe Biden stated in an executive order earlier this month, “It is the policy of my administration that all students should be guaranteed an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including discrimination in the form of sexual harassment, which encompasses sexual violence, and including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
However, the order didn’t address the issue of religious rights and exemptions—opening the door for more lawsuits.
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